Greece rejected on Wednesday accusations of migrant pushbacks at its border leveled by Turkey which accused Athens of causing at least 12 refugees to freeze to death.
Turkey’s interior minister, Suleyman Solyu, said that Greek guards were responsible for pushing the refugees away from the border into Turkey, where they died. The dead were part of a group of 22 people.
Greece’s migration minister, Notis Mitarachi, denied Solyu’s allegations that Greek frontier units forcibly expelled the migrants.
“The death of 12 migrants at the Turkish border near Ipsala is a tragedy. But the truth behind this incident bears no resemblance to the false propaganda pushed out by my counterpart,” he said in a statement.
“These specific migrants never made it to the border. Any suggestion they did, or indeed were pushed back into Turkey, is utter nonsense.”
Greece says that migrant pushbacks are “baseless claims”
Mitarakis insisted that Turkey should work on preventing such “dangerous journeys,” instead of wasting time with “baseless claims.” Mitirakis referenced a deal the EU made with Turkey to stop such migrant flows. “Turkey should assume its responsibilities if we want to prevent such tragedies from occurring again,” he added.
Tensions between Turkey and Greece have deepened since 2020 when Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told asylum seekers to make their way to Europe through Greece.
It is illegal under domestic, EU, and international law to deny migrants seeking asylum at the border. Despite this, numerous organizations have assembled proof that expulsions are a regular occurrence at the border.
Humanitarian groups decry border expulsions, hunger crisis
Humanitarian groups have also sounded the alarm over a rapidly escalating hunger crisis in Greece’s migrant camps.
Aid workers say that the camps have been lacking sufficient food for months, with children crying over their extreme hunger.
The UN’s migration agency, The International Organization for Migration (IOM), reports that there are roughly 16,560 people now in Greece’s migrant camps. Some of these people are waiting for their asylum claims to be heard, while others have already had theirs accepted or denied, but remain at the camps.
The International Rescue Committee (IRC) says that almost half of those currently in migrant camps fall outside of asylum procedures and are thus not covered by government catering contracts.
This is due to a new policy put into place in October 2021 that allows the Greek government to only give food to the 10,200 migrants who have not yet received a decision about their asylum.
The rest of the people currently staying at the camps are without proper resources, with teachers reporting children showing up to classes without having eaten and with no food for the rest of the day.